A Greenhouse Six

It has been a long time since life was calm enough for a Saturday Six and to warm up gently for the rest of the year’s efforts, this one is focused inside and under cover.

The rain and wind have been blustering and rolling around the greenhouse for days; inside, though dry and still, it is definitely not warm. No real encouragement then to spend much time inside it sowing seeds or potting on. There seems to be more of a need for the latter than I had realised as Autumn sown seedlings are quietly outgrowing their pots.

Number 1: Autumn sown Antirrhinum potomac ivory

The late Summer cuttings are also needing to be moved on into their own (or bigger) pots and there have been surprisingly few casualties considering the dramatic drops in temperature.

Number 2 are the cuttings of Jamaican Primrose which have all taken despite the slapdash way I treated the cuttings – taking them late and just poking them into multi purpose compost. They were my favourite plant of all last year and am looking forward to planting a ribbon of them through my garden this year. They are tender, but are extremely long flowering- even coping with some light early frosts. Their soft yellow daisy flowers are truly lovely.

Just 4 of the many cuttings of Argyranthemum ‘Jamaica Primrose’ marguerite

Number 3 are also Autumn sowings and these are the very healthy looking ridifolia or false fennel. This is a first and I am hoping they will look fresh and green in flower too.

Ridifolia sown in Autumn and potted on once

Caught again in that February indecision and the conflicting messages from experts, seed packets and books about what should and shouldn’t be sown. There is that nagging February anxiety that if I don’t do lots now it will be too late. There is also the clear memory of window sills crammed with tomato, aubergine and chilli plants, during last year’s late Spring and delayed Summer, which got bigger and bigger and finally a bit overwhelming as the greenhouse got fuller and the weather stayed obstinately cold.

But looking round the greenhouse, of course I have already planted more than I think. Number 4 are the germinating Broad Bean seeds elbowing their way out into the light.

Broad beans heading for the allotment when they can stand up for themselves

Number 5 are the almost as lusty seedlings of Cobea scandens which will add a touch of glamour to my fences this year.

By the end of the Summer these will be reaching for the sky

Last for this week’s Six are the Anenomes just coming in to flower in their crates. The first one, white and gently unfurling, is such a sign of optimism for Spring when it feels and sounds so much like Winter.

An optimistic splash of white sheltered inside.

While this Six has been sheltering inside, I am sure there will be many more Sixes out and about braving the elements. Just take a look over at the The Propagator’s blog

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January Colour

Seven months since the last blog post and it is Winter again. It is cold, but not barren; the garden is not just its bare bones – there are already hellebores, snowdrops and even an optimistic primrose or two in flower. The frosts knocks them down every so often, but so far they have just popped up later. All of them have been quietly doing my job for me: increasing their numbers from the one or two original plants and a sprinkling of bulbs in a dark corner to splashes of colour almost the length of the border . Not a label or a name to identify them by now, but they are very welcome in this obdurate month when the light lasts longer each day, but Spring isn’t even close.

Established, self seeded hellebores

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Six on Saturday

The busiest time of year in the garden and the busiest time of the year in my job. The wilting, erratically watered plants at the plot, allotment and around my house are only just hanging on. Last weekend’s blistering heat nearly saw them and my gardening mojo off. So no time for a Six then, or even worse to read many. Below is my quick Six for today while over at ThePropagator there will be many delights to explore.

Time poor and pressed, with the garden needing my concentrated attention, last weekend I spent my time doing something entirely different. I snuck off to read. A life long character flaw which refuses to be mended. But the pleasure of reading Allan Jenkins’ short book ‘Morning’ with its vivid and intensely evocative descriptions of his different gardening spaces in the early morning did have a positive outcome. I got up at dawn 3 mornings in a row and gained more than the extra hours.


Next is the first flower of the Jamaican primrose which grew from a cutting taken from Derry Watkins’ garden on a propagating course at Special Plants. Just managed to keep this alive through Winter before planting it. Am hoping the sun and warmth will cure its sickliness. If healthy it should grow to a metre high. Hope so – it’s lovely.

Jamaican primrose

Yesterday was another sneaking off – this time to the Spring Show at Malvern with all its temptations. One of the stall I seek out is Hardy’s. Its display is always beautiful with inspiration for unexpected plant combinations and there is always something new. Number 3 is just one of the display’s gold winning lovely sides:


Fourth is the delicate beauty of this aquilegia nestled in at the front of the Hardy’s display,


Fifth is another new plant to me at Avon Bulbs – a sparkling camassia, a deeper and darker blue than mine at home

Avon bulbs

camassia leichtlinii Maybelle

Difficult to know what to end on, but perhaps the free, self sown, lacy loveliness of orlaya grandiflora which opened up its flowers in my front garden this week.

orlaya grandiflora

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Six on Saturday

Back to cooler temperatures this week and, looking on the bright side, it has meant that the tulips have lasted a little longer. Rain has also granted a rest from the rescue watering of last weekend. Some of this Six’s pictures are taken from my warm and dry kitchen, but I did venture out for a few, before sheltering in the greenhouse.

Right outside my kitchen window, and now properly in leaf , are a collection of acers; some in pots and others in the ground  – all enjoying the shade. Those  we’ve planted seem to accommodate themselves to the clay too and are getting bigger every year though their names have long been forgotten.


Outside at the end of the garden and alongside the greenhouse there are some of my favourite tulips looking fine in a sea of blue – the forget me nots in their prime. The beautiful Ballerina comes back every year, but Angelique has surprised me by returning in healthy loveliness after being poor in its first year. Next autumn there is going to be a big splash out on tulip bulbs to ensure they pop throughout the entire spread of blue at the bottom of the garden. The random dark Queen of the Night look good too.


Next is inside the greenhouse and, carefully avoiding the leggy tomatoes and the slightly chewed chillies, the courgettes are looking robust and happy. Probably shouting out to be re potted, but being ignored for today.

courgette defender

Courgette Defender

Fourth, on the steps just outside the kitchen door, is a pretty viola bought from Special Plants; a gentler and pinker version of the Viola Corsica grown from seed in the Autumn. They are both lovely. So too is the simple (and edible) Viola Heartsease.


Then next is just one of the many healthy divisions of Centaurea Jordy which seem to be doing well in their pots.

scabiosa Jordy

And last of all, is this shot of my garden today from the kitchen window (washing line included). Last week’s star, the Amelanchier, lost its blossom overnight and has moved out of the spotlight for the carpet of blue.

back garden 2

Looking forward to looking at other Sixers’ highlights this weekend over at The Propagator’s blog.

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Propagating: sowing seeds

After years of fiddling around and too often failing, there are definite signs of improvement in my propagating. And so there should be considering the number of workshops attended and books read. Here, because it might save you time if you are starting off and I might forget, are the tips I have found useful over recent years.

First of all is the question of what to sow seeds in. At the start, I bought a whole stack of full sized seed trays. A mistake. These tempted me to scatter the whole surface with seeds. This meant ending up with far too many seedlings (if they all germinated) or wasting a whole packet of seed and time. Those trays also took lots of room which was precious when I only had a couple of cold frames. For me, even half a seed tray is usually too much and the quarter size ones are just about perfect for most seeds. I can fit four times as many in the same space and feed my seed sowing obsession by sowing many more varieties. For larger seeds, I use and reuse module trays; these are brilliant for pricking out small seedlings too.

The sowing medium is obviously key and despite all the advice about specialist seed compost I have resolutely stuck with peat free multi purpose compost. Now perlite or grit might be added, but the best choice for me over the last few years has been Silva Grow which is always on offer (5 bags for 4) at local builders merchant. It is light and well composted and I have never had a bad bag.

nasturtium Tip Top Mahogany

Nasturtium Tip Top growing happily in a module tray filled with Silva Grow peatfree compost

Filling the seed tray up to the top, tapping gently on a bench to remove air pockets and firming down the surface of compost has become a habit. Obviously, sowing seeds thinly to give them room is important and for me, with small seeds, still a work in progress. For years, after sowing the seeds I would cover them with a sprinkling of compost, but now a light dusting of vermiculite is usually how I top the tray off. Grit a la Carol Klein is very satisfying, but I don’t always have it.

In the past I would then drench the carefully sown seeds by watering them from the top with a watering can, but now the trays are put in a tray of water to soak up water and when the top looks damp they are taken out. At least that is the idea. Honestly lots are left too long, but it doesn’t usually matter. At least unintended heavy drops of water from a watering can rose doesn’t wash them away.

Also, in the past I would have forgotten the crucial stage of labelling, thinking I would remember. Of course I most often didn’t and would have to try to work out what was what from emerging leaves. White plastic labels seem to get everywhere, but they are an essential part of this process. Once they have been used up, I might try a non-plastic option, but for now reusing them as many times as possible has to be a good enough environmental compromise. And while pencil works, I prefer a permanent marker pen as it’s easier to read.

The courses last year offered many propagating tips which debunked popular gardening wisdom. The first one was that it isn’t always essential to wait for the seedling’s true leaves to appear before pricking out. Have tried this and  have been nicely amazed that it doesn’t seem to make any difference. The second was not to bother with hormone rooting powder and this is one I am experimenting with.

Seeds should be used up year on year and fresh bought in annually and keeping them in a sealed container in the fridge would be the ideal, but I don’t live alone and compromises on this front have to be made. It is surprising how many neglected and badly stored packets germinate cheerfully, but I would certainly avoid disappointment if I improved this part of the process.

No matter how often I sow seeds, the pleasure of seeing the first one in a tray push through the compost surface never gets stale. Nobody needs to tell me how lucky I am to have acquired a greenhouse, but I am genuinely surprised by how quickly it fills up.

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Six on Saturday

An explosion of Spring with three hot days in a row has meant that all the loveliness that seemed to be on hold has just burst out in unbelievable exuberance. Blossom and blue skies and heat makes it feel as if the garden is hurtling forward at speed. Am guessing that cooler weather will come and slow it all down, but today feels almost dizzy with the speed of change. Last Sunday couldn’t feel my cold toes at the Farmers market; this week a little burned by the sun. A bit late in the day for my six and so if you pop over to The Propagator by now there should be a whole lot of other Sixes to enjoy.

So first of all is the reliable, but glamorous Abu Hassan tulip which seems to come back healthily every year despite neglect and clay soil. At the allotment it pushes itself up through heavy clay which might make it slightly daintier year on year, but it is still very striking.

flowers 083

Next are the boughs of arching white on the Spirea Bridal Wreath. This is its moment of  eye catching perfection.

flowers 101

Third is a bit of a repeat, but the tapestry of Narcissus Pipit, Thalia and Hawera in varying shades of yellow, cream and white is simple and prettily cheerful outside my front door. They’ll soon be gone.

flowers 094

Today the Amelanchior could not be more beautiful and the blossoms are relishing the sun.

flowers 099

Fifth are the sweetpeas planted at the plot against the metal grid which is one of my favourite things. No pesky netting to get tangled up in, just a solid and attractive support. So actually number 5 is the grid not the sweetpeas.

flowers 090

Last are the blue cornflowers I am growing for a wedding later this year. These are at the plot, but they also appear at the allotment and will be in my own garden. This is the only must have flower requested by the bride. Every time one tray germinates, the next gets sown. Hoping this will guarantee buckets of blue.

flowers 092

Lets hope I can protect these young plants from the onslaught of slugs. Nothing is growing as prolifically in my garden as they are this Spring.

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Six on Saturday

One of the many positives of gathering together a Six on Saturday is the way it helps pin down the weather and its patterns. When  growing up I couldn’t completely understand the fixation my Welsh farming mother had on this. But I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night for lambing or worry about healthy hay. Now in the middle of England and not near a wet and windy coast, I  have my own harvest to grow: flowers for a wedding. A long way off, but March’s cold delay means I am not feeling as relaxed about it as  in February. So keen weather watching has begun.

That leads me into number one, the small patch used for growing flowers in my friends’ large field. Its heavy clay was too dank and cold to work until this week when the sun came out. Out too have popped the nettles and docks, but yesterday weeding them with warmth on my back it was difficult to mind.


The beginnings of weeding

Next is another outside my own garden – a trip to Hidcote. Perhaps too early for my partner as not so much to see, but for me looking at the early Spring bulbs and the paths and supports in the Kitchen garden was satisfying enough – lots of ideas to take home. As well as a few plants…


Not sure if I can replicate this cat’s cradle for my flowers.

My clashing primulas are a source of pleasure everyday on the steps outside the kitchen. Dunberg and Valentine need to be kept apart, but they are eye catchingly cheerful.

It may be getting late to include daffodils (or narcissus); perhaps for most people the baton has firmly been given to  tulips, but this week old and new favourites have finally bloomed. Hawera is a new one for me and daintily beautiful. Thalia is an old love and, yes, they have been a bit beaten by the weather (and probably the slugs too), but that wouldn’t stop me having a whole garden of them and maybe next year I will.

Fifth is a pot I found lurking, forgotten at the back of the greenhouse under a shelf. A martagon lily, Claude Shride which seems to have flourished in neglect.


It is often frustrating to recognise what an absent minded gardener I can be. Sometimes though there can be happy unintended accidents. So I did mean to plant up the smaller pot with tulips and Sweet Williams, but when the Autumn grown coriander plugs were slipped into a large pot, the tulip bulbs underneath had been forgotten. Never mind, they seem to have made room for each other quite well. Much more intended gardening over at the Propagator’s blog where the ever increasing Sixers share their gardening knowledge generously.

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